Meet our first five COVID zine grant recipients

For Applicants
Note that we are making our selections in batches over the next two weeks even as applications remain open until this Thursday, April 30th. Our selections do not necessarily reflect the order of applicants. Applicants who haven’t heard back, you may still be selected even if you are not listed here. All applicants will be contacted by May 15th at the latest regarding the status of their application.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expand mercilessly, with many of its painful reverberations still to be seen. Its awful impact on the health and stability of the zine and independent artist community is already remarkable. After all, our beloved constellation of creators is especially vulnerable to economic uncertainty, and many of us have lost work and portions of our income on top of managing the fear and grief that characterizes the spread of this global disease.

So we at Broken Pencil Magazine wanted to do something to help. We launched the COVID  Zine Micro Grant mere weeks ago, with the idea that putting even a little money in the pockets of zinesters might make a big difference right now, and would support self-publishing work that will document these strange times.

So we asked our community and supporters to match our original donation of $1,600, aiming to deliver eight micro grants to the tune of $400. Fingers crossed, we put up the application form and donation page, put the word out, and hoped for the best. Would people be able to spare some shekels at a time like this?

We should have known that the zine galaxy’s answer would be a fast and fearless “Hell yes!” It was amazing— within a couple weeks, more than $4,000 was raised on GoFundMe. That money, plus $2,000 from BP, allows us to offer $400 grants to 15 creators rather than 8 — more than double!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to everyone who has donated and spread the word. We couldn’t have done this without you, and it’s so heartening to see our community come together in such difficult times.

Now, for the main event! Get to know the first five recipients of the COVID Micro Grant below. Congratulations to those selected so far, and remember, applications remain open until Thursday. Stay safe and healthy, everyone. We’re thinking of you.

[column size=one_half position=first ]Amara Martín • Rebel Betty Arte  • Chicago

[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ]Amara “Rebel Betty” Martín is an AfroIndigenous Puerto Rican artist, educator and cultural worker. From Chicago. Martín’s personal multidisciplinary practice usies poetry and collage to depict the magic of Chicago’s working-class communities and to trace back ancestral forms of resistance and beauty.

Her visual art, organizing and cultural works center on the preservation of culture and black and brown communities through facilitated dialogue, poetry, music, education and the arts.

We’re excited to support such talented artists whose practice begins from a place of community building and empowerment, and who make personal work speaking back to complex political experiences.  [/column]


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Mara Ramirez is an artist, educator, and nanny living and working in the Bay Area. On the day to day, they mostly hangout with little kids and make stuff. Sometimes they teach grown ups as well as big kids and teenagers about drawing and telling stories. At night they work with their best friends as the  Freak Comics collective, an independent self-publishing comics collective.

Together, the three artists rotate curating and editing a bi-monthly anthology (alone, no small feat) plus their own work. Their aesthetics span many styles, from twists on traditional cartooning to full blown experimentation, offering an accessible but uncompromising alt-comics library. Mara often plays with abstraction, colour, and the action of mark making as a means of distorting (and in doing so, clarifying) their own experiences through the filter of emotion and memory.

While COVID has compromised the collective members’ financial means, personally and in their art practice, they remain determined to continue publishing together and independently. Mara is already working away at a quarantine-driven project and we’re stoked to see where they may take it!


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Mara Ramirez • Freak Comics • Bay Area, CA



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Archie Sarjeant and Elizabeth McCord • Gytha Press • Calgary, AB


[column size=one_half position=last ]For many artists, there is no real division between the creative projects they send into the world and the deeply held social values that inform them. Gytha Press is one of those outfits that puts their ethics and politics front and centre, writing on their website that “We here at Gytha Press believe our most important job is being responsible to our community, our artists, our readers, and ourselves.”

The independent comics press based in  Mohkinstis/Calgary has lived up to their mission of community accountability since being formed in 2016. The flagship project is Toad Hex Magazine, a free tri-annual mini-magazine designed to improve the visibility of local comic artists and illustrators. As a key part of the project, Gytha pays a fair wage for all work contributed and adheres to a publicly available code of ethics promoting diversity and inclusion. 

In the spirit of putting money into the hands of artists, we’re delighted to offer a micro grant to help support Gytha Press in its mission to pay artists fairly for their work even in trying times. [/column]


[column size=one_half position=first ]Philadelphia-based harm reduction distro Chem-Positive aims to provide accurate informational tools to encourage safe and responsible psychedelic use.

With a few zines under their belt already, including titles such as When the Cops Are at Your Doors of Perception: Know Your Rights and Psychedelic Feminism, the aim of the project is to open up thoughtful and non-judgmental conversations about  about ethical, spiritual, legal, and harm-reduction informed considerations in the psychonaut experience, both as individuals and as a community. In doing so, they strive to create safer spaces to foster community and discussion with consciousness-seekers-therapists, artists, lawyers, philosophers, scientists, and people of faith alike.

Chem-Positive seeks to cultivate a radical entheogenic ethos, provide accurate information, and support responsible behaviour and attitudes. In a world where our ways of being together are being transformed, and where spending time with conscious and unconscious selves is ever more profound and unavoidable, a harm reduction lens for all substance use is critical, and we’re proud to support such work.  [/column]

[column size=one_half position=last ]Renu Urvashi Sagreiya and Zena McDonnell • Chem Positive • Philadelphia, PA


Alex Prong • Toronto, ON

The aim of the micro-grants initiative is not only to support people with long histories of excellence in the zine community, but also to encourage writers, artists and creators newer to the format to access and engage its superpowers.

An all-around writer and editor by trade and a recent graduate from the University of Stirling’s Creative Writing MA program,  Alex Prong has circled in the orbits of zines, alternative magazines and literary publishing for a few years. Having cut her teeth in these capacities, we’re excited to see Prong create or curate her first solo zine with the support of this grant.